100 Broken Windows


Capitol Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: George Agnos


Rock and roll ain't dead yet, folks. There still is some life to this music, and there is no better proof of this than listening to 100 Broken Windows, the latest release by the Scottish rock band Idlewild.

What makes 100 Broken Windows such a great listen is they follow a recipe that many great rock and roll albums use. They take the influences of their favorite artists, and add their own perspective to it, making their music sound fresh, yet familiar.

The two artists Idlewild seems to be heavily influenced by are R.E.M. and Nirvana - not bad choices at all. Just listen to the opening track of this CD called "Little Discourage". At first, I thought I put on an old R.E.M. CD by mistake. The melody of this song and the cryptic lyrics make this sound like it came straight out of R.E.M.'s Murmur or Reckoning albums.

However, listening to "Little Discourage", I find some distinct differences. The jangly guitar sound of those R.E.M. songs are nowhere to be found, replaced by Rod Jones' more aggressive punky guitar lines. Also, singer Michael Woomble's voice is much more forceful and clearer. Woomble definitely wants you to hear the poetic lyrics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the second song, "I Don't Have The Map", the R.E.M. style melody is still intact, but the Nirvana influences begin to appear as the song builds with Woombly sounding like he is channeling Kurt Cobain as he shouts out the lyrics. "These Wooden Ideas" and "Roseability" continue in the same manner, adding some capable backup vocals to the mix.

100 Broken Windows makes a left turn at this point with "Idea Track" where the R.E.M. influence disappears, and the grunge quotient goes up with Woomble in full scream mode, and the guitar more up front in the mix. However, this is softened by the addition of backup vocals, and what sounds like a violin at the end of the song.

"Let Me Sleep (Next To The Mirror)" would be my choice for the single because this is the most "poppy" song on the CD, sounding not unlike the Vertical Horizon hit, "Everything She Wants". The difference is the beautiful imagery here: I interpret this as a song about a woman metaphorically not wanting to see her reflection in the mirror, because of what she might find out about herself. Then again, this might not be Top 40 fodder after all.

(Apparently "Little Discourage" and "Roseability" are the singles since this CD also contains the videos for these two songs, which you can play on your computer's CD-ROM or DVD player. The videos are in Quicktime format, and a copy of Quicktime for Windows and Macintosh are included in case you need them.)

Now back to the music: "Actually It's Darkness" blends a very Nirvana-like chorus to a murky Cure-like verse, and somehow makes such an unlikely combination actually work. No one is credited with playing the piano on the CD, but it sure seems to be there on this and other tracks.

100 Broken Windows turns quiet towards the end. "Quiet Crown" has the band toning things down instrumentally (except for Colin Newton's expressive drumming), and has a stately quality to it. This and the final song, the ballad "The Bronze Medal", show that Woombly can sing with power even in an understated mode.

What I really like about 100 Broken Windows is that it is an easy listen if you only want to rock out, but it makes you work a little if you are interested in discovering what these songs are about. I congratulate Idlewild on bringing poetry back to rock and roll.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.